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Vancouver researchers launch new Alzheimer's test for Canadians

A new Alzheimer's disease test is now available for Canadians, in specific situations.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia are launching a new test for Alzheimer's disease.

A new Alzheimer's disease test is now available for Canadians, in specific situations.

The test uses biomarkers in a person's cerebrospinal fluid (which surrounds the brain and spinal cord) and could mean earlier and more accurate diagnosis, according to a press release from the University of British Columbia.

Right now that test is just being launched by a group with the university and only if a doctor specializing in dementia orders it. It's for cases where mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease symptoms are present.

“The Alzheimer’s disease biomarker test, which we have now made available to all Canadians, can help doctors accurately diagnose the disease even when only mild symptoms are present," says Dr. Mari DeMarco.

DeMarco is a clinical associate professor at UBC and clinical chemist with Providence Health Care. She and a team helped develop the biomarker test. Because it may allow an earlier diagnosis, it has the potential to allow patients to get earlier treatment as the disease progresses. Part of the study is looking at how people make medical decisions based on tests results.

“This is an important addition to the toolkit we use to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. DeMarco in the release. “Adding the measure of biomarkers has been shown to help correctly identify the disease and predict those with mild symptoms that are likely to progress to dementia.”

More than 500,000 people live with Alzheimer's disease diagnosis in Canada, or a similar type of dementia, and that's projected to increase.

Alzheimer's disease is caused by proteins which clump together in the brain; these clumps can't be seen using imaging technology. The biomarkers test measures protein levels in cerebrospinal fluid to determine if someone's deteriorating brain health is due to these proteins.